So, what was the problem again?
Tony Romo wore a Dallas Mavericks jersey with his signature No. 9 on the back Tuesday night against visiting Denver. He went through pre-game warmups. He went through the tunnel and high-fived fans. He was introduced during pre-game warmups and appeared to be having a blast, along with his new “teammates.”
And then, like a first-year undrafted NBA player, he took a seat on the bench and didn’t play a second.
If you were expecting distraction or disrespect, look elsewhere.
The emphasis Tuesday night, which was also Fan Appreciation Night, was on fun. So why the fuss nationally? Who cares what a non-playoff team does on its own time?
The Mavs clearly had fun with Romo during warmups. Romo — who played high school basketball in Burlington, WI — played a little one-on-one with Yogi Ferrell and Devin Harris, and bodied up to Dirk Nowitzki a bit in the post. Everyone had a smile on their face. No one wondered how all of this looked to the outside world. They didn’t care. Romo basically had the ultimate Mavs Fan Experience, akin to him (or you, or me) playing alongside Rolando Blackman in a Mavs Fantasy Camp. Who wouldn't want to do that?
Otherwise, it was a normal game night at the American Airlines Center. I arrived about 5:30 p.m., two hours before gametime. The Dallas Mavericks Dancers were rehearsing in the same place. Fox Sports Southwest was waiting to interview Mavs head coach Rick Carlisle in the same place. Security told me not to stand in the same places they usually tell me not to stand.
Romo emerged from the players’ family room about 5:45 p.m., and if you didn’t know it was the celebrity QB-turned-CBS-star you wouldn’t have paid attention. With a blue workout shirt and warm-up pants, you would have thought he was a season-ticket holder. Then he was gone until gametime, and things went on like normal. Romo’s wife, Candice, and their kids were there, with both boys wearing Cowboys jerseys with Romo’s No. 9 on the back, and “Daddy” where Romo’s name would normally be. That could have happened at any Mavs game this season.
The world didn’t stop because Romo put on a Mavs jersey Tuesday night. He never signed a contract (something Rick Carlisle acknowledged Tuesday morning as a logistical impossibility). The game of basketball didn’t fall apart. The NBA didn’t implode. The local, non-playoff bound basketball team was looking to honor the local quarterback and add a little juice to Fan Appreciation Night. It worked.
There were just as many Romo jerseys in the AAC on Tuesday night as there were Dirk jerseys. There were plenty more Romo signs, too.
Local fans got their first opportunity to celebrate Romo since he called it quits last week (of course, he didn’t quite use the word “retire,” and I wrote about that a little in my Romo Retirement Reader in First and 10 last Sunday).
Dirk said some great words about Romo, who got a chance to thank his fans personally.
“This is an honor I could not dream of,” Romo said before the game. “It’s a bit embarrassing. But I’m a real lucky guy. Thank you Dallas. I love you.”
Was it a publicity stunt? Sure it was. But let’s be real about this for a minute. The owner of the Mavs, Mark Cuban, does few things by the book when it comes to the NBA. He considers it entertainment. He does pre-game press conferences on his Stairmaster, and on Tuesday he talked about percentages of fans that come to the game to watch the game (10 percent, according to him) and fans who come for other reasons. He gives away VIP tickets to fans who come to the game in the craziest outfits (Tuesday’s winners were a group of men who showed up in blue unitards clad with a Mavs logo). He thought it was a great idea to put together a dance team filled with big and tall "Maniacs.'' And it worked.
He’s even in on the joke.
Ticket sales aren’t an issue, even with the Mavs missing the playoffs for the first time in 17 years. But Cuban admitted that honoring Romo got fans to the game a little earlier. The Mavs also put together some Romo swag — jerseys and T-shirts — that, well, sold out quickly, according to the Dallas Morning News’ Jon Machota.
Cuban did have to talk with NBA commissioner Adam Silver about this, but it didn’t deter Cuban from moving forward, nor did the NBA put the kibosh on it.
Take that, No Fun League (NFL). And Newy Scruggs is absolutely right. Cuban does know his fan base and it’s an owner’s job to cater to that. This is football country. Honor the recently-retired QB? Of course you do. Maybe you don’t give him a seat on the bench and a uniform, but it’s his team. What’s the harm?
Cuban also admitted that had the Mavs been in the playoff race, they probably wouldn’t have done the Romo celebration the way they did. And for a celebration it was low-key. They worked a couple of Romo highlights into the montage of introductions. Romo was introduced as a “guard in his first year from Eastern Illinois.” Carlisle, Nowitzki and Romo said a few words and that was it. Romo did find himself in the Mavs’ “feature presentation” video during the under four-minute timeout of the second quarter. Romo’s head found itself cut into a montage of clips from "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.'' With seven minutes to go, fans chanted for Romo to be inserted into the game. Later, Romo and Cuban pantomimed their way to pretending it might happen. The fans loved it.
Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett was there. So was Cowboys offensive coordinator Scott Linehan, and Tyron Smith, Lucky Whitehead, Byron Jones, Terrance Williams and Ezekiel Elliott, having a ball while wearing a No. 9 Cowboys throwback jersey.. Here’s hoping that, at some point, Romo and Garrett shook hands and got their relationship back on the road to recovery (as our Mike Fisher pointed out earlier Tuesday).
Fisher reported that the Mavs had made security arrangements for at least 15 Cowboys personnel. No sighting of Jerry Jones, though his wife (Gene) and daughter (Charlotte) were in the first row, representing,
It was a win-win night for everyone involved (including the Nuggets, by a 109-91 score, which moves Dallas to 32-49. Romo got to do something cool (admit it — Cuban invites you to warm up with the Mavs, you say "yes'' every single time). Cuban got some extra publicity and sold some extra jerseys. Fans got to show their appreciation for "Tony The Turtle.'' And the Mavs still have ping-pong balls coming.
So, again I ask, what was the problem with all of this?
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